Time Keeps Flowing Like A River


Way back in June 2010, this little guy donned his handmade mortarboard and in a small ceremony in his school auditorium, he and all his other kindergarten schoolmates were officially bestowed the title of First Grader.

So little was he that in order for me to take this picture, I had to crouch down to his level.

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To give you a better idea, here’s a shot at my eye level. I may have even had to crouch down here as well.

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Look at that “Congrats, Graduate!” button! It’s almost as big as his head.

Flash-forward to last Thursday at the very same school, a day I would not miss for the world and one I thought would never arrive. Not because Anthony is a lousy student but in the world of parenthood, you see and go through a lot. You also think a lot, and my thinking back in 2010 was “Wow, he’s a first-grader. He’ll be graduating in what, 2018? My God, that’s so far away!”

Yet that day had arrived and all the grandparents and his only uncle were there to witness Anthony’s advancement to high school.

And I have to admit I held it together fairly well before the event. But let’s not talk about the slideshow during an award ceremony a few days before. A few months in advance, parents were asked to submit pictures of their students through the years at the school and I added my fair share. It’s when they were put together with music that both Ann and I lost it. It was great to see them over the years but also touching knowing these days were soon to be over.

At that award ceremony, Anthony was given the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award as part of the President’s Education Awards Program.

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I know whose signatures are on it. I don’t care. He would have earned this award regardless of who was running our country into the ground and fiddling like Nero while Rome burned in the Oval Office and if you knew how hard this kid worked this year to bring his grades up to excellent levels, you’d look past that too. It’s something the school believed he rightfully earned and I’m okay with that. It’s now hanging in his room.

Back to Thursday. We all take a seat in the quad and wait for things to begin. Music plays in the background. As the crowd continues to roll in, I stopped in my tracks as Fun.’s “We Are Young” started to play over the loudspeakers. I tried to hold back my tears but I’m human and just couldn’t. That song is one of Anthony’s favorites and I can’t tell you how many times we heard it coming from his bedroom. I realize the true meaning of the song but it’s more or less the hook that really stuck a nerve with me given the circumstances:

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set this world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun

It’s a pretty strong anthem as it is. Adding a personal connection made it so much more meaningful.

Song over. Music fades. Then the Star Wars theme starts and here we see all the kids filing in from the other side of the quad.

Personally, I would have gone with Throne Room myself – triumphant, and it’s the final scene of an epic story. But goddamnit, why is it so dusty out here?

Once seated and we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and Star-Spangled Banner, it began. A few of the school’s top awards were given and a some students gave speeches. About 45 minutes later they started to call student names so that they could receive their Certificate of Promotion.

It looked like a concert with all those people holding up phones to capture the moment, but this was so much better than any concert we’ve ever attended or would ever attend. I even saw one person FaceTiming the event which I thought was really moving. Some things get to me and that was definitely one.

By then, parents were all over taking pictures and videos. I stood behind the podium on a flight of stairs to capture this shot of our soon-to-be former middle school student.

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I’ve taken thousands of pictures in my life but very few will be as meaningful as this one. A broken ankle, dislocated finger, violin recitals, plays, programs, a little bit of schoolyard heartbreak and the end-of-year picnic, everything he experienced at that school was all behind him now. I have never seen this kid have such a look of relief in his eyes with the smile to match. It absolutely melts me, and I’m sure Dad would have been the same way.

When his name was called, I didn’t clap. I yelled his name and cheered as I took a few more pictures as he was handed his certificate, shook hands with administrators, and made his way back to his seat.

Then, once all the names were called, they were officially declared high school students. We all gave them the applause they so rightfully deserved. I then stood next to where the students were filing out and ugh, I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was for a lot of them and as a parent you can’t help but feel the same way. One of the girls who gave a speech was absolutely broken as she hurriedly shuffled her way out of the quad. Some of the guys – the ones you would least suspect to be moved by this – looked like they had been crying since they got there. I saw Anthony approaching and he looked okay but definitely had red eyes.

I grabbed him, gave him a big hug, told him how proud I was, and took another picture. He then filed out with the rest of the students to the front of the school where things got even more emotional.

More tears. More hugging. Lots of pictures. Did I mention tears? Anthony made the rounds and found as many of his friends as he could and got pictures with them. Afterward, he wanted to go say goodbye to a few of his former teachers. It also gave him one last time to walk the hallways of the school.

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In speaking with them, they all agreed: this kid here was one of the most caring, compassionate, and giving students they’ve ever had. One of them even told him that what you learned here was important but what kind of human being you are is just as important. I can assure you they will miss each other equally.

Anthony is one of only a handful of students who attended Newcomb Academy – a name I’ve withheld from the blog since he started school – from kindergarten through 8th grade. This time includes being relocated to another campus as their school was literally razed and rebuilt from the ground up, which is why things look so different from the first picture.

And note the size of the button now. Not so small, is it? (I told him to look serious for this shot, by the way.) Yes, we still have it and yes, we will make him wear it in four years.

But let’s not get that far. I’ll be 54 by then and I don’t want to think about it. But I do want to say this.

Kid, you made it. You muddled through your share of academic challenges over the last 9 years and as expected, came out on top as you always have and as I always said you would. You’ve doubted yourself but I never did. And being that you inherited your stubbornness from me, I know that you’re much to critical of yourself on many things.

Don’t be. You’ll learn as you get older that it’s not worth it and it just frustrates you. Move on. Just think back on what all of your teachers told me about you on the last day and always carry that with you.

A big, new world awaits you in September and it will be much different from what you’re used to, but it will also be fun. Of course you’ll have some bad days scattered here and there but that’s to be expected no matter what. Hell, I still have them. But just keep this in mind.

Mom and Dad love you and are incredibly proud of the young man you’ve become. And although you’ll be glad when you’re all done with high school, let’s not talk about the Class of 2023 just yet. Let’s take it a day at a time.

Because if these last nine years were a blur to you…

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…just imagine how quickly four years will pass.

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Congratulations, son. Set this world on fire. Burn brighter than the sun. A new chapter of your life has begun and we are looking forward to every second of it.

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Dem Bones, or Das Boot


Ann and I decided early on in our parenthood journey that we would be supportive of Anthony with everything he did. Whatever he wanted to try, we would let him have at least one stab at it and be behind him all the way.

And so we did: tae kwon do, t-ball, violin, trumpet, and even the drums which I use more than him even though I suck. He gave all of these a chance but never really went anywhere with any of them but does indeed spent a lot of time at my drawing table producing abstracts that I can’t even being to comprehend. He’s got an artist’s mind for sure. I have no idea where he got it.

We’ve even so gone far as to not brand him with any one religion and only act as a moral compass along the way. If he decides later in his life that one has the answers for him then that’s great. Adults can’t make sense of that stuff most of the time so why confuse a child?

There was, however, one exception to all of this: playing football, and this goes back to long before we were parents. The sport seems to lend itself to inflicting serious injury onto the other players and for kids, I think it’s over the top and way too much for them. They have enough trouble trying to understand and execute plays and I couldn’t stand to see him or any other kid get flat-blasted on the field and not get up.

Then there’s the whole sports parents thing. I guarantee I would have been in my fair share arguments. Football was definitely out.

We never played it as kids but did toss the old pigskin around during those long, warm summer evenings while listening to the AM transistor radio. None of us would he harmed by that. But as for some of the other things we did as kids, well, that’s up for debate.

I’m not willing to divulge any of the stupid, stupid things we did as kids but let me tell you that it was by some miracle that none of us ever got seriously hurt or maimed. The most painful injury I had as a kid was a sprained pinky finger that I got while catching a kickball at school during a play at home plate. I never hurt myself playing any sports with the guys on the block.

And despite all of that, I’ve made it to the ripe ol’ age of 48 without breaking a single bone, even after my scooter accident. I’m a tough old bird.

So what does my childhood devil-may-care attitude and Knievel-esque propensity for adventure have to do with my son?

First, I haven’t told him half of the things I did when I was his age or younger. He doesn’t need any inspiration for stupid things to do and post on YouTube. In fact, it’s safe to say that me and my friends were the original version of Jackass but without cameras rolling. We were that bad.

Second, he recently started expressing an interest in football. We watched the Super Bowl and for not being a football fan, Ann was amazed at just how much I knew about the game. (The rules are pretty basic; I just get bored sitting for hours on end seeing guys yelling into headsets and watching six-second plays unfold.)

He told me that they were playing flag football at school recently and that he really enjoyed playing. That’s fine because hey, rip the flag off the dude and the play stops. No contact, no injuries.

Then one day after playing at school, he came limping up to me and told me he hurt himself playing football – tackle football, something they weren’t supposed to be doing. So we RICEd it – rest, ice, compression and elevation – for a few days in the hopes it would get better.

A week later and it was still the same so we had to take him to the doctor. The diagnosis was a sprained ankle but they took x-rays anyhow to be sure. They gave us the same RICE recommendation, scheduled a follow-up visit and prescribed some crutches.

Later that day, Ann gets a call: they found something on the x-ray.

Yep. His ankle was fractured. And $300 later, the kid is now sporting a huge boot that he has to wear all the time except to bed for the next 4-6 weeks, a time that includes our vacation in Las Vegas.

The good thing is that he doesn’t have a cast and he can move along pretty well, even better than I expected.

Hopefully this experience was a wake-up call for him.

Then again, if he’s anything like I was as a kid, it probably wasn’t.

Track Time


Today was Anthony’s 12th birthday and despite Mom and Dad asking him repeatedly for weeks what he might want as a gift, his reply was a consistent “I don’t know!” (He really wanted a camera but I’m still pricing them — and he’s not getting one better than mine.)

I had some suggestions for places to go and things to eat, all of which were met with opposition or just not logistically feasible for our back-up plans. I even threw out the idea of going to the local go-kart track to see if he would bite.

He was skeptical. But Ann, tired of his indecisiveness, made up his mind while he was taking a shower: we were going go-karting and he was going to like it. After all, I took the day off from work to spend it with him.

Go Kart World sits off the 405 in Carson and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was no longer in business or even abandoned by its owners who were suddenly in the midst of some kind of legal trouble. You’d think that — until you see the number of celebrities who have spent the day there: Cindy Crawford, Quentin Tarantino and yes, even David Beckham. The last one makes sense since he played for the L.A. Galaxy whose home is just a few blocks away. The arcade walls are covered with even more celebrity pictures than what’s on their website.

I guess if you want to have some fun on the down-low, this is the place to be.

Anyway, there are a ton of options for racing from a single ticket to an all-day pass. We opted for the all-day pass since it didn’t make any sense to spend $30 for two hours when the day pass was $37.50. It also gives you in-and-out privileges if you decide to go for a bite to eat and come back (which is what we did).

There are five tracks to choose from but really, for bigger kids and adults, there’s only three to be concerned with. And even then, you could break it down to just two since the Turbo Track isn’t all that exciting and very narrow which doesn’t allow for passing. Fun, but the competitive spirit is all but extinguished.

Anthony and I found ourselves on the Slick Track first. It’s nothing more than an oval with slippery curves that are perfect for drifting. Having played my share of driving video games in the past, I had this track figured out by my second go-around.

And while helmets are not necessary when driving, we brought ours anyway so that we could record some GoPro footage to share with everybody. Here’s our first time on the Slick Track. If you’re a fan of the old Daytona USA arcade game then you’ll dig the background music.

You might have noticed I had two GoPro mounts on my helmet. You’re right. That’s because I didn’t want to keep one in my pocket in such a cramped little car — more on that later — or keep removing it. I figured I might as well leave it and just switch positions as I needed to.

Also, at about 3:00 you’ll see Car #10 enter from the left side. The guy was a real bag of dicks and kept bumping Anthony on this track and the larger Super Track. His kids were also a couple of ill-mannered dillweeds who did the same thing but my boy got even with them by pushing them into the wall on the Super Track. As for the dad, I bumped him a few times at about 3:12 just to distance him from Anthony. This kind of stuff isn’t encouraged since it’s a family amusement center but hey, if dude’s going to be an asshole and take out my kid, I’m going Tony Stewart on his ass.

With that out of the way, we headed over to the Super Track which, as its name implies, is  the largest track at the facility. Here’s how that went (with music from Daytona USA once again).

Anthony and I mix it up a little at about 1:30 of this video and he later bumps me toward the Start line (you can hear me laughing about it later). As for that stupid yellow car in front of me? There was just no getting past them no matter how hard I tried. I wish I had a banana peel or turtle shell convenient.

So while the overall experience is indeed fun, especially for a first-timer, there’s plenty of other little things that I didn’t prepare for.

The stench/emissions produced by those tiny little lawnmower engines that power the go-karts can nearly gag you, especially when you’re directed to use a car under the overpass where it kind of collects. I had to throw the faceshield down on my helmet a few times as I was waiting just to cut back on the cloud of black smoke that was enveloping me.

At 5’10” and 200-something pounds, the size of the cars leaves something to be desired. For me, they required contortionist entry and exit as well as adjusting the seat belt before sitting down since most drivers are kids and they use a smaller size. It’s pretty cramped inside and by the time we were done, my elbows were sore from having them rest against the inner wall of the cars. But while I don’t like small, confined spaces these didn’t bother me much — except for getting in and out, which was no small task. I felt like I had done some core workouts by the end of our visit.

The arcade is less than impressive with games that someone like me, who grew up in the ’80 arcade era, would never bother to play. There’s also a fair share of claw and skill games to choose from. The only money I spent in there was for a can of Hawaiian Punch: driving these things can make you thirsty real fast.

Even with those few little things, it’s safe to say that we both had a great time and are looking forward to returning for whatever special occasion happens to be next on our calendar or any other day that finds us struggling with ways to spend it.

But I’ll leave my banana peels at home no matter how badly I’ll want to bring them.

2015: My Year in Review


Either I was going to do it or Facebook was by putting random pictures together and calling it “my year.” I don’t think so.

As I have done for the last few years, I am once again tying a ribbon on the end of the year with a review of all of the good and bad things that happened to me over the last 365 days including things I’ve never mentioned here or on my personal Facebook account. Of course, pictures and links to accompanying posts will be posted whenever possible.

By the way, this is only my 27th blog post of 2015 so I’ll try to make it worth your while. Here we go.

January 2015

I ran quite a bit and rescued my neighbor’s turtle who had slipped underneath their gate.

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Anthony and I attended the Dodger Fan Fest and it was everything I hoped it would be. On the field, in the dugout…just an amazing time.

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February 2015

Rather than get gifts for his birthday, Anthony opted to have his room made over which meant finally painting over the Thomas the Tank Engine picture I had painted on his wall when he was 3 years old. I never quite finished it but he didn’t mind and was actually hesitant about getting rid of it since it was there for so long.

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I took my HTC Re camera on California Screamin’ at Disney California Adventure.

Oh, and I turned 46. Meh.

March 2015

My job at the grocery store bakery continued to give me fits.

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I didn’t quit when I wrote the note you see above but I was ready to almost every time I clocked in. Having to document everything (in pictures or writing) was a royal pain but a necessity according to my then-union rep. It’s hard to stay motivated when the boss would leave stuff like this behind and expect you to clean it up plus do your regular duties.

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And don’t get me started on all the spelling errors in their notes and labels.

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I failed my DMV motorcycle skills exam.

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I was part of about 1,000 people to take part in the Run the Runway event, celebrating the Grand Reopening of R25 at Long Beach Airport. It was a short one-mile and obviously flat course.

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April 2015

We went to Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival and tried all sorts of boysenberry-flavored items. The tasting card also included fried alligator and I have to admit that it was pretty darn good.

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Fried alligator bites and fries, oh my!

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Anthony and I participated in the Grand Prix View, an event in which residents were able to ride, walk, or run along the shortened course of the upcoming Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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Here’s a video of our lap.

My job continued to suck as is obvious by this note. Seems like the manager was the only one who never made mistakes and I refused to be a victim anymore.

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My penmanship is usually much better but when you’re frustrated and in a hurry to leave, you get your point across any way possible.

We went to the Formula E race to watch electric race cars quietly tear up the track we rode a few days before.

I ended up on Bing Maps after spotting their survey vehicle on the way home.

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My doctor confirmed that I had tendonitis in my right wrist which was caused by work. I filed an accident report but didn’t pursue a claim as it would have only led time off and no pay, something I didn’t need or want. Naturally and as expected, it turned into a clusterfuck of biblical proportions.

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My condition improved as the months went by, thankfully.

May 2015

I decided to retire from blogging (again) only to return a few days later (again).

And because May is National Bike Month, I decided I’d ride my bike to work all month.

It lasted two  days.

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We bought a couple of red-eared slider turtles and they are some of the coolest pets we’ve had. (They are surprisingly quick on dry land!)

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With the pittance my job was paying me, we bought what we could from the visiting Hello Kitty Café van (but their prices were kind of high, too). Ann had been waiting months for this!

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I ran 10k on the beach for the hell of it and made my own medal out of a seashell – for the shell of it.

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June 2015

I thought it would be fun to learn Japanese and I was all gung-ho to start. I made some progress but have pretty much given up at this point. I may start up again, though.

Anthony graduated from grade school and made his way to middle school. We’re incredibly proud of him and although the transition was tough at first, he’s now handling it like a champ.

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We went to a Touch-A-Truck event where kids were free to climb, touch, and experience huge vehicles up close.

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Despite my job sucking the life out of me, the company decided to send me to the Corporate Office for thorough Bakery and Deli training for whatever reason. I’m smiling here because a) I was not at the store being tormented and miserable and b) it was the first time I had ever gotten a 40-hour check while working there. And, we got to take home the food we made every day.

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I discovered that a local mall doesn’t allow alligators on their escalators.

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At said mall, Ann found an outfit she HAD to have but didn’t buy. (No, she didn’t have to have it. We just thought it was hideously ugly.)

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After my week of training, I returned to my regular work schedule only to realize that nothing at the store had changed.

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We discovered a revolving sushi restaurant and my life hasn’t been the same since. For the good, I might add.

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At $2.50 a plate, things can add up pretty quickly…

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July 2015

I was commissioned by a friend to shoot some stills of Anthony and other young golfers in action.

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For the second time this year, I failed my motorcycle skills exam.

Skip to :58 to see me dip inside the line in literally the last segment of the test. I still think it was messed up that the DMV official didn’t give me a second chance like the previous one did, especially since I had made it further into the test. Now I have to take it again. Thanks, buddy.

I won tickets to a Dodgers game, courtesy of world famous Philippe The Original.

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Here we are at said Dodgers game.

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The Screwing of the Dave continued at work where I was given some overnight shifts, apparently for being a such an awful person. Stocking dog food at 1:13 am is a job for unskilled morons who work overnight because it’s best they don’t associate with the general public, and thanks to the store manager, I had become one of those morons.

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Oh Hello, Kitty! She’s got the right uniform, too.

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I attended a meditation and chanting service at a local Buddhist church and loved it. I can see myself going regularly. (Note that this is my altar that sits on my drawing table.)

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August 2015

You can only kick a dog so many times before he turns around and bites you, and that’s exactly what happened in August. Pushed into a corner at work, I had no choice but to fight my way out of it which led to my indefinite suspension and eventual termination (or “your services are no longer needed” as was stated by the manager). But you know what? That’s okay because I can’t say enough positive things about the job I’ve been working since then, even if it’s only freelance work and I had a few weeks off. It’s close to home, it pays me well, and there are so many other things about it I love. Can you say beer and pretzels at our weekly Social Hour? Twice-weekly breakfasts? An environment free of drama? And there’s still hope that they will hire me soon which is something I desperately need now. Not only for the money, but because I really effing love what I’m doing now – as does Anthony, who I’ve taken with me a few times.

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See that? That’s the face of someone who is earning decent pay doing a job not many can do in an environment filled with like-minded and creative individuals. So screw stocking dog food and feminine hygiene products overnight, Ralphs. You can have it.

By the way, former boss. Shouldn’t you be wearing gloves while you handle food and assemble cakes, especially after touching your mouth?

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But remember, I’m the moron who didn’t follow the rules.

Anyway.

We bid a fond farewell to the Spirit of America, the local Goodyear blimp. We arrived the day after the official public event only to learn that there was a private event being held for friends and family of the blimp workers. But my brother worked for the blimp years ago and I dropped a few names and pointed out a few people in the crowd to the PR person – and we were in. Not only that, but we got to go inside the gondola, something that visitors on the previous day couldn’t do. It helps to know people!

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Although I have been on at least six blimp flights, it was still an absolute thrill to climb aboard her one last time. I just wish I could have been “going up” (as the crew would say) that day. Dad used to bring me here to watch the blimp land so it was even more meaningful for me to have Anthony experience it up close. He now has something to tell his kids about when the time comes.

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Useless Fact: during one blimp flight, I was asked by the pilot if I wanted to fly her. I refused for some reason, and that regret will follow me to my grave!

Later that month, I did another golf photo shoot in the wee hours of the morning. Lots of great shots were taken.

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Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I had become a part of the Apple Cult when we switched providers. I looked high and low for an Android phone that appealed to me and none of them did, so I went with the iPhone 6 if, for anything, a different experience. So far it has been and I love it. I’ve since upgraded to the 6s.

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A group of FA/18 jets were practicing at the airport and the public was invited to see them up close.

Of course we went.

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September 2015

After riding 20+ miles one day, my bike’s odometer finally hit 1,000 miles. I had at least 1,000 on it before I installed the device.

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Still working, still enjoying the view from the patio.

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While putting my stuff away after work, I ended up throwing my keys in my scooter’s underseat storage – and closing it shut. I had to take the train as close to home as possible where Ann met me with my backup key.

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I then had to take the train back to work and was able to ride my scooter home. What an adventure. But worth it because I saw this guy on the train. Don’t bother – you’ll never be as cool as him.

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I decided to join a gym again, a move I kind of regret because the closest one isn’t really close. And being outdoors is better.

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October 2015

I discovered San Antonio Winery and I like every flavor I’ve tried so far.

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The first week of October in Long Beach means one thing: Marathon Weekend!

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Anthony participated in his third Kids Fun Run on Saturday…

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…while Dad was up at an ungodly hour to ride his bike 20 miles on Sunday. It was 4:30 am when I took this shot.

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But even if it’s a long day, the reward is so worth everything you put into it.

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This was my sixth bike tour and I will be back in 2016 for my seventh, and my third combo (I’m running the 5k on Saturday).

Here’s the entire bike tour. I’d recommend running it at 2x speed.

Green Tea Kit Kats. ‘Nuff said.

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Our family tradition that started in 2004 continued as we got our picture taken in the cut-out at the local pumpkin patch.

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Despite November being No-Shave November, I went the opposite way and rid myself of facial hair a few weeks before because I got tired of the upkeep. And the grey.

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Halloween at the new place was as insane as I expected it to be. I wore this just so I could be in shorts at the office but I had to get my picture with a coworker who was dressed like The Dude – complete with his rug. Because it really tied his cubicle together.

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November 2015

An unannounced rocket test freaked out everyone in the SoCal area, including us.

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For the first time ever, I left some stuff on Dad’s headstone for Dia de los Muertos. Anthony made the flowers out of duct tape.

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We goofed around at the L.A. Auto Show.

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A bit of a proud moment at the auto show when I saw one of the projects I worked on finally on display. It was strange seeing it in its intended state when previously I’d only seen it as a PDF file for proofing.

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My brother stopped by for a visit. He works as Disneyland and was in Tomorrowland for a few days, so I had to pose with this hideously ugly costume he was issued.

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Long Beach native Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Doggy Dogg or Bigg Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion depending on the day of the week) was doing his second turkey giveaway that week. I was off work early and decided to drop by VIP Records and see what was going on. Pretty cool guy, and he knew just about everybody who talked to him. Keepin’ it real, to use the parlance of our times.

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On Thanksgiving morning, I ran a Turkey Trot 5k at the last moment. A friend of mine and her wife were planning on doing it but one became sick a few days before, so she offered their entries to me and a former coworker. Every ninth finisher got a pie. I didn’t but my friend did. Lucky duck!

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And in the spirit of being thankful, I’m very thankful for Mom’s health improving. At her request, I’ll say nothing more about what she’s gone through over the last year.

December 2015

Holiday parties commence at the office. One day every department was treated to pizza and an assortment of libations. Yes, this is at my desk. No, it’s not uncommon to see alcohol in the refrigerators at work. Yes, I work at an amazing place with amazing people.

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With the price of the GoPro Hero 4 Session dropping to $199, I had no choice but to upgrade. Merry Christmas to me!

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More fun times at work, this time for the Kids Holiday Party. Poor Santa is struggling – Anthony is a solid kid.

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The decorations down the street from the office are beautiful.

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And that’s pretty much been my year and unless anything amazing happens in these last few days, that will be it for this blog post.

One last thing. After freelancing since August, I’m this close to being hired permanently. There are still some things that have to be worked out but it’s looking very good for me at this point, and all I have to do is wait until these things happen – and keep my productivity where it is. They seem to like me.

From stocking shelves at a grocery store where I was treated like crap to working on all sorts of literature for the automotive industry at a place that respects my abilities and where I’m surrounded by creative people. I’d say my year turned out to be pretty good, even if it had some awful moments here and there.

Here’s wishing your 2016 is filled with luck, health, and much love. Live one day at a time and never look back. It’s the only way to get through these crazy times.

 

All the best!
Dave

So About Tonight…


I do just about everything I can to keep Dad’s memory alive, whether it’s getting a tattoo in his honor or taking Anthony places that he used to take me. My hometown, restaurants, whatever. It’s just always a treat to walk into someplace with him and stand in the very same spot where Dad held my hand as a child. It’s how I feel Dad’s presence and his bond with me, even 39 years after his passing.

Tonight I decided to take Anthony to one of those places: an oil refinery. Yes, it sounds ridiculously stupid but allow me to explain.

Every year for Halloween as they have done for the last 60+ years, the ConocoPhillips (formerly Union 76) refinery sends out a crew of skilled artisans to paint – yes, paint – the face of a jack-o’-lantern on one of their tanks: the big orange gourd-shaped tank. Once the transformation is complete, the tank takes on the persona of Smilin’ Jack and the locals love him.

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There he sits amongst the rest of the tanks all bright and orange and lit up at night for that one time of the year when he demands the spotlight. He deserves it.

But what is it about Smilin’ Jack? Is he just a decorated tanker?

Oh no. It goes beyond that.

Locals will tell you the reason they visit him: caramel corn. Yes, when Smilin’ Jack returns it also means that on October 30 and 31, his minions at the refinery will set up shop in the parking lot and watch lines of cars file through. When they arrive, they will bombard visitors with bag after bag of caramel corn and other goodies.

This is why they go and this is why Dad used to love taking us – “us” meaning every kid in the neighborhood stuffed into a Pontiac station wagon. Seeing us smiling like Jack was his reward.

It’s silly and it’s fun, and it’s something that reminds me of Dad. And in case you’re wondering what it’s like to be assaulted with bags of caramel corn, watch this video.

While it may not look like we got a lot of bags, let’s be clear of one thing: we did.

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I think I counted 15 bags of it, not including the one Anthony and I shared on the ride home.

Speaking of the ride home, I surprised Anthony my making one totally random stop.

“Hey,” I said looking over at him. “You want a hot dog?”

We had already eaten dinner. I ate too much at the Halloween party at work. My weight is going up. Why not? And so we did.

There was really only one choice: Wienerschnitzel (or Der Wienerschnitzel  if you’ve been going there as long as I have). But this isn’t just any old Der Wienerschnitzel location; this is the original one that opened back in 1961 and as such, has been designated as a historic landmark.

Wellll, maybe not but there is a plaque that recognizes it as the first location. And I don’t know what it is about this location but everything just tastes better there.

Anyway, we stopped and bought a bag of dogs just the way Dad used to in that Pontiac station wagon. I’m sure he would have had a blast hanging out with us tonight. I miss him.

Then once we had our bag of hot-dog goodness, we made our way home. Me and Anthony chatted along the way with him bringing up the concept of Heaven and Hell. (Keep in mind that Anthony was never baptized into any religion; we want him to make his own choice down the road). It was an interesting conversation considering he’s merely 11 years old and has sort of made up his own mind about whether they exist or not.

My stance is simple: I don’t know. I don’t think that as humans, we were ever meant to know. But despite that, sometimes it’s nice to think that there is such a place where all good souls gather to spend eternity with their loved ones by their side. On the other hand, I find it selfishly unfair that Dad was taken from us far too early and that whomever thought this was a “divine plan” is a real heartless bastard.

Anyway. We continued our talk as we sat in traffic. There was a Kia Soul in front of us as we waited for the red light to change.

Tonight was all about Dad and some of the things we did together. And I know he’s around, even if I can’t completely commit myself to believing in Heaven, Hell, or otherwise.

And as if I needed more reminders of it tonight, the bumper sticker on this Kia Soul sealed the deal.

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I know it’s hard to see but the text running along the top was a blur with through my 46-year-old eyes that seem to be getting worse with every page I proofread at work. But the big word in the middle is “KOREA.”

The small text at the bottom reads “I SERVED.”

Dad served in Korea. This wasn’t the only time he reminded me.

Goodnight, everyone. And thanks, Dad.